The poet-doctor-son takes his ninety-year-old mother for a walk through the park on a cold winter day. He cites the peacock as an emblem of life-spirit, but she responds by talking about dying, saying: "This winter I'm half dead, son." He wants to weep, but does not allow himself to, because he "inhabit[s] a white coat." He avoids the issue by speaking of "small, approximate things."


As in his poem X-ray (see this database), Abse here dramatizes the tension between the personal (a son grieving for his sad, aging mother) and professional (the doctor who must keep his composure).

Primary Source

Literature and Medicine 3: 4 (1985)


Johns Hopkins Univ. Press

Place Published